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Rescuers Recover Hiker's Body in Monument Mountain Reservation

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The body of a missing hiker was recovered early Saturday morning from Monument Mountain Reservation after an eight-hour search and four-hour recovery operation.

The hiker was identified as Joan Sussman, age 67, of Ashley Falls. Family members said she was a frequent climber and regularly hiked Monument Mountain.

Fire Chief Charles Burger said the operation began as a rescue after Sussman called in to say she was injured and was at the top of the mountain.

Rescuers from the Great Barrington Fire Department and Southern Berkshire Ambulance were dispatched to the mountain at 3:18 p.m. A GPS ping showed the last known location as Squaw Peak, but the call was soon dropped and subsequent calls by dispatchers and rescuers went unanswered.

Because of the steep and rocky terrain, the Sheffield and Egremont Fire Departments were called in for additional manpower and for the department's additional all-terrain vehicles. The Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team was also activated. No one was found.

Searches along all of the trails proved unsuccessful. A strong thunderstorm rolled through with torrential rain, making hiking more dangerous.

Police K-9 units and the state police arrived on scene later on. The State Police Air Wing was requested but unable to fly because of weather conditions.

She was found at 10 p.m. on a rock cropping and was pronounced dead at the scene.

A delicate recovery operation then began using multiple crews and rope systems in the darkness. The hiker's body was finally removed from the scene at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

"This is an extremely unfortunate situation. On behalf of the entire community and the Great Barrington Fire Department, I offer my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the victim," Burger said. "I am very proud of the hard work conducted by our crews, working through the night in poor weather to find and ultimately recover the victim. We wish the outcome was different, however."

The Great Barrington Police and Fire departments, the Sheffield and Egremont fire departments, the state police, the Western Mass. Technical Rescue Team, the Berkshire County sheriff's office, and Southern Berkshire Ambulance all responded. In total, 65 rescuers were on  scene.

Monument Mountain is a popular hiking spot where the Fire Department performs multiple rescues each year. This was the second rescue effort performed in the past week. On Aug. 5, firefighters rescued a 22-year-old hiker who injured her ankle on the mountain.

The Stockbridge and Monterey fire departments provided station coverage for Great Barrington during the incident and responded to several other incidents.

The incident is under investigation by the Police Department.

     

Great Barrington Fire Department Rescues Hiker from Monument Reservation

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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Chief Charles Burger reports that the Great Barrington Fire Department rescued an injured hiker on Monument Reservation last Friday.

At approximately 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 5, members of the Fire Department's technical rescue team responded to Monument Reservation for reports of a 22-year-old woman with an injured ankle.

Upon arrival, rescuers determined that the hiker was stuck on a steep hill, and the Western Mass Technical Rescue team, along with the Sheffield Fire Department's ATV and Rescue Sled, were called to assist.

Rescuers hiked for approximately 45 minutes to reach the victim, carrying extensive medical and rescue equipment. The victim, who had slipped while hiking with her dog, was found in stable condition but in severe pain from a broken ankle. Medics from South Berkshire Ambulance treated her injuries.

Firefighters rigged rope systems to lower the victim in a Stokes basket (rescue stretcher) down a steep, rocky section of trail. She was then carried a half mile to a Sheffield Fire Department ATV specifically designed to carry the rescue stretcher.

Firefighters and rescue officials completed the rescue around 1:30 p.m. The hiker was transported to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield for further evaluation.

"These operations always take an extended period of time to ensure that the victim and all crew members get out of the situation safely," Burger said. "I would like to thank everyone who worked hard to make this a successful rescue, including the incredible help from other responding agencies."

Southern Berkshire Ambulance, Sheffield Fire Department, the Western Mass Technical Rescue Team, and a county fire coordinator were on scene to assist.

The Western Mass Technical Rescue Team is run by Western Mass Fire Chiefs and covers Berkshire, Hamden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. Firefighters from Great Barrington, Lenox, Pittsfield, Dalton, and North Adams staff the Berkshire County Division.

     

Great Barrington Firefighters Douse Blaze in Historic Railroad Street Block

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Firefighters battled a one-alarm fire late Thursday night that threatened to destroy a downtown landmark.

Fire Chief Charles Burger said firefighters responded just after 11 p.m. to Martin's Restaurant, 49 Railroad St., where they found fire in a first-floor kitchen of a two-story downtown block with attached exposures.

Police Officer Chad Shimmon was on the scene discharging an extinguisher through an open window, which helped slow the fire growth. The second-floor apartment was searched to verify it was unoccupied. The first engine on scene was able to quickly control the fire while additional crews checked for extension, ventilated and performed salvage operations.

Fire damage was limited to the first-floor kitchen, though there was smoke and heat damage throughout the restaurant. Second-floor tenants were able to return to their apartment after firefighters ventilated the residence.

The popular restaurant owned by Martin Lewis is open from early morning to late afternoon.

Twenty-one firefighters from Great Barrington responded to Thursday night's fire. The department was assisted on scene by the Lenox Fire Department's Rapid Intervention Team, Great Barrington Police and National Grid. Southern Berkshire Ambulance, along with the Fire Department's Support Group, were on scene providing firefighter rehab. Sheffield Fire covered Great Barrington's fire station.

"I am proud of the quick work done by our department last night," Burger said in a statement. "I would also like to thank all the agencies who assisted us. We were able to save a downtown landmark in Great Barrington."

The business is insured. The cause is under investigation, but is not considered suspicious.

     

Conn. Woman Charged With Striking Pedestrians in Great Barrington

Staff Reports

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Police have charged an elderly woman for crashing her vehicle into two women and two children while they were crossing the roadway on Friday morning, according to Chief William Walsh.

At about 10:49 a.m., two women, along with an 11-month-old baby girl who was in a stroller and a 3-year-old girl, were crossing in a crosswalk on Main Street at Railroad Street. At the same time, an 87-year-old woman from Canaan, Conn., who was southbound on Main Street, failed to yield and struck all four, said police.

All four were injured and transported by ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield with non-life-threatening injuries.

The operator, who was the sole occupant of the car, was not injured. She was charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle and failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. She will be summonsed to court at a later date.

Great Barrington Police were assisted by the Fire Department, the Southern Berkshire Volunteer Ambulance Squad, North Canaan (Conn.) Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Sheffield Police Department and the Monterey Police Department.

The incident remains under investigation by the Great Barrington Police Department.

     

Great Barrington Police Officer Killed in Friday Morning Crash

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — An off-duty Great Barrington police officer died early Friday morning after his pickup truck hit a tree on Prospect Hill Road in Stockbridge.

Stockbridge Police Chief Darrell Fennelly said 25-year-old Ryan A. Storti of Muddy Brook Circle was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which was reported shortly after 2 a.m. According to a statement from the Great Barrington Police Department, Storti was alone and on his way home when he lost control of his truck and struck a tree on the side of the road.

The investigation is being conducted by members of the Stockbridge Police Department with assistance from the Massachusetts State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section.

"Officer Storti was a wonderful young man and police officer," Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh said in a statement. "He was everything we wanted in a police officer and was part of our future. We're all struggling right now as we also try to support Ryan's family. Please keep them all in your thoughts."

Storti, a 2008 graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School, had been a reserve officer in Great Barrington until being appointed to a permanent position in 2015. He graduated from Berkshire Community College and from the Western Massachusetts Police Academy in Springfield.

"Officer Storti was a rising star for our police department. I am devastated to learn of his sudden death," Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said in a statement. "This is a tragedy and an enormous loss for the Police, our Town and the entire community. Our hearts go out to Ryan's family and all who loved him and worked with him every day in public service. He will forever be in our thoughts and prayers."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

     
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